Joint Study Session: Airport Noise5 min read
On Monday night, our Superior Town Board and the Louisville City Council met with our hired airport consultants, ABCx2, for a joint study session to discuss the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (RMMA) Noise Mitigation Study Findings. You may read the full report here.
This meeting was held at Louisville Recreation Center, and so was not televised by Superior Town Staff in the usual manner. However, the City of Louisville videotaped the meeting and the video was published here. You may also read the official meeting notes here.
The consultants began by introducing three objectives they intended to address in their report:
1. Strategies to reduce community impacts
2. Community engagement support
3. Aviation industry engagement support
Right off the bat, I was a little disappointed to see these three stated goals. It’s my belief that we primarily directed our consultants to address #1, with #2 and #3 not being actual objectives but secondary activities we’d have to undertake as part of the implementation plan. By presenting community and aviation industry support as goals, I think we lost focus on our true purpose: to reduce the impact of the airport on our community.
Going forward, I’ve asked Town Staff to discuss with our Town Attorney the possibility of including a goals / purpose section in any consulting contracts. This is something I typically write into my own contracts, and while it’s not as definite and enforceable as specific activities and deliverables, it does help to ensure everyone is on the same page as far as desired outcomes. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the consultants’ report focused more heavily on community and industry engagement rather than actual strategies (including tactics / implementation plans) to reduce noise. This is exactly what I worried about when I voiced concerns with the original contract back in February – that we’d get a current state analysis without robust strategy development, remediation, and detailed work plans to make it happen.
On Monday night, the consultants presented recommendations across five focus areas:
1. Flight Operations / Procedures / Practices
2. Community Outreach and Engagement
3. Industry Outreach and Engagement
4. Land-Use Planning, Zoning and Development
5. Regional Collaboration
As a next step, we were asked by the consultants to prioritize their recommendations for potential implementation.
As I stated in the meeting on Monday, my priority is, far and away, recommendations for flight operations / procedures / practices – I want consultants to help us identify how exactly we will get those implemented. The ideas in this presentation weren’t particularly revolutionary; the question is, how can we encourage RMMA to implement them? I think hosting roundtables and educating pilots is valuable and a necessary part of change management (and the FAA will require a roundtable before any flight pattern changes), but there will still come a sticky situation when a flight wants to depart at 5am and fly over Superior and we don’t want them to do so. I understand that the FAA will not allow us to enforce voluntary restrictions on flying hours, so how do we incentivize restricted hours when it’s not in the best financial interest of the airport to do so?
In my opinion, the challenge for our consultants isn’t around developing ideas for new routings/reducing nighttime operations/etc, but advising us on how to encourage RMMA and its clients to adopt them. RMMA is looking to bring in revenue (which I can’t blame them for), so if we are going to recommend strategies that will reduce revenue (e.g., reducing hours of operation), we need to find a way to make it a win-win for the airport.
While it’s nice to have the community feedback documented, I’m disappointed with where we are right now as far as actionable strategies and tactics. At our July meeting, I was quite vocal about my concern that “we won’t have anything actionable and will simply have a well-documented wish list of complaints”; another member of the Board expressed similar thoughts, and specifically asked for more details around implementation. Unfortunately, if Monday night was indeed the final presentation, I think that “well-documented wish list” is where we ended up with this engagement.
As a consultant myself, I’m disappointed that we paid a lot of money to be primarily told what we already know – that many residents are unhappy with the impacts of the airport. I’m also frustrated that what I believe was our original purpose in hiring the consultants (development of tactical strategies and a long-term roadmap to improvement) was not fulfilled. There is quite a lot of work left to do, and it concerns me that this presentation was planned as the final presentation from our consultants. In fairness, the consultants did indicate during the presentation that they are aware there is more work to be done, so I’m hopeful that they are planning on carrying this work out within our current contracted budget, rather than leaving this as their final report.
On a positive note – one valuable outcome of the consultants’ work is that we’ve gotten the attention of RMMA, and can now have an open dialogue about potential solutions. Prior to the consultants’ involvement, we really didn’t have much engagement with the airport, and our Town Staff had limited bandwidth to pursue dialogue. Although a lot of work still remains, my own conversation with Airport Director Paul Anslow after Monday’s meeting gave me hope that we can work together to provide relief to our residents.
At our next Board meeting on Monday October 14th, another member of the Board and I have asked for this to be on the agenda, so we can share our reactions to the presentation and talk about next steps and where we can go from here. I look forward to the discussion!